The NEW Frappuccino: however-you-want-it

From middle school through college, I was obsessed with Starbucks. Five-times-a-week obsessed. Then five years ago I realized that I was spending $1,500 a year on coffee, quit cold turkey, and haven’t had a drop since.

Part of me also hated the evil empire it has become. In middle school when the first Starbucks opened in my neighborhood, it was a big cool-kids hangout (and I was trying to be one of them) because of their big, plush seating and seeming encouragement of endless loitering while not requiring payment for anything. To the 12-year-old me, it was, along with Barnes & Noble, the paragon of anti-establishment. Oh, how little I understood.

In college, when Starbucks opened up across the street from a much-beloved proprietary coffee joint, Kiva Han, and nearly put it out of business (and got bricks thrown into its new glass windows because of it), I started to see the light. So when I quit the joe, I resigned from Starbucks, too.

But damn, did I miss those Frappuccinos.

Since going indie, I’ve stopped into the ‘bucks from time to time, for their ample seating and free wi-fi. And I’ve looked longingly at my icy sweetness, yearning for a sip. But alas, I refuse to go back to the caffeine teet. Last summer on a particularly hot day, it occurred to me to ask around for a decaf Frap — and got turned down at five different locations. Then when a Starbucks opened in my apartment building, I happened to get the general manager who, wanting to please, offered to essentially make me one using the base of a Crème Frappuccino (which is caffeine-free) and a shot of decaf espresso for the coffee flavor. His concoction was a masterpiece, and I savored every moment of it through that green straw.

Over the past year I’ve had a handful of really bad days where I felt the only thing that could cheer me up was such a Frappuccino. I’ve hopped into whichever Starbucks was nearby and asked for it not by name, but by recipe. Baristas, well-trained as they are, would look at me cross-eyed, but would oblige. I would walk away with my drink, satisfied but embarrassed by my off-the-menu order.

That all changed today. Though it’s a gray, rainy day in NYC, I was craving a Frap hardcore, so I came into the Starbucks where I’m still sitting right now. Ready to shame myself for the sake of the drug, I looked up at the menu board and saw this:

The *new* Frappuccino however-you-want-it

Choose your:

  • Milk: Whole, 2%, Nonfat, Soy
  • Coffee: Decaf, Extra Coffee, Add Espresso
  • Calories: No Whip, Light–1/3 fewer calories

I took it all in…and then I squealed.

“Is this for real?!” I asked the cashier.

“Yes, darling. What do you want?” he replied.

I went on to recount my entire journey up until this moment, all the way up to the cross-eyed part. Then he said, “I won’t look at you cross-eyed. What do you want?”

And I told him, quite simply, with exultation: “I would like a Nonfat, Decaf, With Whip, Grande Caramel Frappuccino please.”

And he smiled, and said, “Of course.”

And I rejoiced. Triumph.

Decaf: check. Milk: N (nonfat). Custom: +WC (whipped cream). Drink: CRF (caramel frappuccino).

I will ultimately take the credit for inspiring the However-You-Want-It Frappuccino (officially released May 4 according to Starbucks), but that isn’t why I wrote this post. Instead I felt it was important to commend a company, whose brand I’ve pretty much disdained for years, for taking it upon themselves to take customer feedback (whether direct or observed), and use it to turn one of their flagship products into one that is more inclusive, more flexible, more mindful of the varying needs of its “users”.

And above all else, to transform what was once an embarrassment into an encouraged behavior.

Thank you for your willingness to listen, willingness to change, and willingness to help make me much more comfortable within your walls. Cheers to you.

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  1. says

    Holy hell, I had my first Frappuccino in many months last week… on May 4th. The new menu system confused me pretty badly but I think it makes a lot more sense in the long term.

    I will try your Frap next time!

  2. says

    As a former barista at the 'bux, I dismissed the new campaign as silly. You could always get Frappuccinos however you wanted, I thought to myself.

    I forget that customers don't know that. And that they're embarrassed by custom orders, even though baristas are supposed to welcome them. (And also that store managers stop mixing decaf Frappuccino base when there's insufficient demand.)

    Congrats! Welcome back.

    • sydney alexander says

      you are right, they ALREADY were customizable, so what about the old hard core drinkers like me? WE dont like them, and we cant get them 'however we want 'em” so along with the thousands of people who are joining me on the many facebook sites dedicated to hating the new frapps, we are not very happy about this! After trying to get my drink, that I've drank for ten yrs now, she made it five times, and they all were crap, but Im so glad that all of you are happy, see, they are making the ppl that OCCASIONALLY had frapps happy, and doing this, have pissed off the other 75% of their customers!

  3. says

    @Melanie S: Not to dispute a former barista, but I'm pretty sure custom fraps weren't really fraps before. I got into dressing up soy in a big way a couple of years ago, but could never get a “frappuccino”. When I wanted to knock back a cold one, I ordered the exact same as my hot drink, only asked for it to be “blended”.

    What @starbucks has done is cut out the tricks that used to save me money. I notice the “Americano Misto” button has been removed, so now my four-shot latte costs me a full latte.

    @Whitney: I also wanted to resist the corporate machine, but @starbucks is the only place that guarantees the same quality drink at any location, from Vancouver to Texas, or even NYC. Plus, who can fault a company that developed a corporate culture such that the staff spend their off-hours, (and their wages), hanging out in their stores. Howard Schultz must have done something right.

  4. says

    Being from Vancouver (I have 5 Starbucks stores within a 1-block radius of my apartment–no joke) I was somewhat surprised to hear this whole 'customization' thing was new. I've always been able to order a non-fat Frap with an extra shot of espresso. If I was feeling particularly naughty I'd sometimes even order a skim Mocha Frap with a couple of hits of peppermint syrup (so good). I've never received a second glance with this order at any Vancouver Starbucks–but then this is the city where ordering coffee is seen as some kind of competitive sport.

    I agree with @tonychung: Despite being a bit of an evil empire the one upside to Starbucks is definitely their consistency. Sadly I have also noticed they are becoming hip to all the ways regulars attempt to save ourselves some cash–my 'Americano Misto' is no longer any savings either. Sigh. A #firstworldproblem for sure ;)

  5. says

    I think of Starbucks as an evil empire, but when it comes to customer service, they “get it”.

    I order a grande half caff mocha with soy and they automatically yell out the order without hesitation to the barista and add 'no whip'. Then she confirmed no whipped cream to me, just be be sure. But she knew the likelihood that someone requesting soy milk isn't going to want whipped cream. I like that. Smart *and* efficient.

  6. sydney alexander says

    I am really happy YOU are happy about the new frapps, but as a hard core 7 a week venti vanilla bean with 2 shots espresso drinker, for ten years now, WHAT about the ppl who liked the old ones and are totally disgusted with the flavor, texture and after taste of the new ones, before the frapps were however you want it, as you made a decaf one yourself, right, so they were already customizable, and these new ones are sick! So, Im glad that you are now able to go back, but before you got to make the drink you wanted, its just not right, after the thousands of dollars Ive spent there, that I can not enjoy MY frap anymore, but again, I am happy for YOU, but it would be nice if they could really be however you want it, with the platform you have here on the net, it would be nice if you could not only think of yourself, but maybe think that this is not making everyone as happy as you seem to be, there are a lot of facebook pages dedicated to the new hatred of how strbx has treated their long time cstomers, so its not just the rants of some crazy person here!

  7. says

    As a person who made many a Frappucino as a 'bucks barrista in college, I cannot imagine drinking one. The universal beverage base (called UBB in the industry) is sickening when you're mixing it at 5:00am.

    But I'll admit that I have a coffee problem. Fortunately, my 5 day a week tall coffee habit only sets me back $364 a year.

  8. David says

    Correct me if I am wrong….but my daily Venti Mocha Frappuccino I just finished still tastes the same it always has???

    Confused with this whole new frap thing…I saw the signage….but was still able to order it exactly the same as before, and it still tastes the same….anyone else feel the same?


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